Everything in the village has been razed. Mary buildings are burned sometimes by fire, sometimes by acid - the other buildings have been trampled. Bodies everywhere - burnt, frozen, torn apart.
Nobody, it seems, survived what had happened here.
Near the edge of the village lied the corpse of a gigantic creature. An elderly man was looking at the corpse at various angles, looking rather puzzled.
The heroes quickly joined the old man.
"You too, young woman, are intrigued by the presence of irregular creatures?", he asked Marisol.
Marisol was very suspicious of the old man's presence. Nevertheless, they both examined the creature's corpse at their feet.
The old man, who presented himself as Eldak Serpenthelm (I know my last name sounds villainous, but I did not choose it) identified the creature as being a mixture of a dragon's head, a giant's torso and the lower part being reminiscent of a lion. Definitely not the creature that escaped our heroes.
I had a kinda-skill-challenge based scenario here where the players could examine the remains and find clues and theorize among themselves about what was happening.
It turned out that I mostly role played with Marisol while most of the other players were either falling asleep or talking about something else. I failed to notice this at the time and probe whether this part should be kept for next session.
I felt that the analysis of the corpse was cool for me - medieval CSI typed - and it made sense too! I had fun with that... but I think my "Grissom" was too clever for his own good and he solved most of the puzzle for himself.
Arkanys, feeling that the old man knew more than he let on, tried to frazzle him with death threats.
The old man was not impressed and started a small philosophical argument - which Arkanys fled in order to help save a child stuck under some rubble.
During the exchange, Marisol notice that the old man and Morrigane were secretly exchanging glances - as if they knew one another.
They went on to try and gather some information from the child. The child was ordered to hide under the bed as soon as the creature attacked the village. He heard screams and destruction for a while, then he heard a second creature come in and fight the first creature - their fight is what destroyed the whole town.
This is where I started noticing that I was loosing players. I cut short on the kid interrogation and just had him plain give them the info.
Arkanys notice that Eldak was listening on the conversation.
He immediately threatened to end the old man's life if he didn`t tell him why he was listening in.
"Well, I'm trying to understand what has happened here, what do you think? Why are you here? What are you always so eager to end a man's life, young Shadar Kai?"
"Life is meaningless, old man. Only death has meaning."
"Ah. So young... so foolish, still! Did you not yet figure out that it is the measure of a man's life that brings meaning to his death? How can you worship death and have no respect for life?"
One of my favorite interaction of the whole game session.
At this point, I would have expected my players to discuss about the clues and come up with some theories much cooler than what I came up with.
But with only two players actually role playing, and a few others nearly sleeping, that didn't happen.
Annoyed by the old man's presence and the obvious fact that he knew more than he let on, the players went to confront Morrigane. She too, seemed to know more.
Morrigane did not really resist Marisol. She rapidly revealed that she and Eldak were both members of a secret society - the Valaistu.
Durign the game session, the organization had no name. I just came up with it.
The Valaistu are monitoring the appearance of strange creatures around the world in an attempt to find and stop their creators.
According to their sources, some organizations are working towards the creation of gigantic creatures and wreak havoc ever 100 or so years. Every time the cycle starts, enormous creatures fight one another around cities, causing enormous destruction and death.
The caravan is actually a front operation to try and spot potential recruits. While the heroes have not yet proven themselves, the Valaistu still requires their help - the creature fights have started ahead of schedule and they have not yet gathered enough information.
Eldak soon joined them.
"I cannot gather much information here - the creature from the Kobold's lair won the fight. From what your party has told us from the Keep and what I could see from the remains, both creatures seemed to be from the same creator... I suspect he wanted to keep only the strongest one."
"We need to go to the Oracle", said Morrigane.
"An Oracle is too unreliable-"
"It worked for Adelinde - these adventurers proved that much. It is settled then. We are heading towards Spellgard...
Adventurers - we would like you to join the Valaistu. At the very least, we would like to hire you to try and gather information from the Oracle of Spellgard. Will you join us? Will you come with us?"
That was my clever way of biding all the previous adventures into one cohesive whole. Arkanys figured out part of it during the investigation.
But, I had failed at emotionally connecting my worn-out players to the quest.
They agreed to follow - but not to join the order. But looking back on the session and comparing it with my notes, it feels like I've railroaded this show something fierce.
I don't know if I should help my players find a motivation to help out... this feels just like some more railroading.
Actually, I need to find out more about my players and their backgrounds - help them find their own motivations for adventuring... and weave some of that into my campaign.
I also need to find some cohesion within my group - for there aren't really any reasons for them to stick together.
What I plan to do is have a little role playing session by email, where I will poke at their (potentially secret) motivations to go see the Oracle.
I think I should see if we can cut back a bit on the goofing off. I have nothing against goofing off, but I feel the role playing part of the game would have been much more enjoyable if there had been less distractions.
My players seemed to have enjoyed the game and so did I at first... but I am left with a feeling that this game session - which I tried to tailor to please my role players - ended up pleasing only myself
Or maybe its the introspective eye of the DM that is never "good enough" speaking.
The PCs are now all level 2. Most of them have received a magic weapon. Next session, should my players decide to actually go there, should mark the actual beginning to the Spellgard scenario.
The amazing Medieval CSI picture is (c) AnimaFantsy.com which, sadly, is a dead link.